Like Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" last year, Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" is a daring fable about a boy learning to survive after the loss of his parents. It's also an adaptation of a beloved book rendered in fantastical detail by an Oscar-winning director experimenting with 3-D imagery in the most fascinating way.
Before we meet the boy, Lee and screenwriter David Magee (adapting Yann Martel's acclaimed novel) introduces us to the man he will become: Pi Patel (played by the Indian actor Irrfan Khan). Pi invites a journalist (Rafe Spall) into his Montreal home to tell him the amazing story of his life. Every aspect of Pi's life, even his unusual name, is the springboard for a fascinating yarn and Khan, as Pi, spins them gracefully and charmingly.
The teen Pi (played by newcomer Suraj Sharma) is a self-taught student of many religions, and the son of a zookeeper (Adil Hussain) in Pondicherry, India. When the Patels leave India for Canada, many of Father's animals accompany the family on their freighter. One night, a raging storm sinks the ship, and the only survivors are Pi and a handful of zoo animals including a ravenous Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. (Yes, there's a story to explain how the tiger got that name.)